ABC of CPR/BLS: Airway Breathing Circulation

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Basic Life Support are life-saving techniques used in emergency situations when someone's heart or breathing has stopped. The ABC of CPR—Airway, Breathing, Circulation—is a fundamental framework that guides responders through the critical steps of providing immediate assistance. This guide will provide a comprehensive overview of the ABC of CPR, emphasizing the importance of these steps and the correct techniques involved.


The ABC in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Basic Life Support ensures that the victim receives high-quality CPR within the shortest time possible. The ABC are abbreviations for Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. It refers to the sequence of events in Basic Life Support.

  • Airway: Open the victim’s airway using a head-tilt chin-lift or jaw thrust maneuver
  • Breathing: Provide rescue breathing
  • Circulation: Perform chest compression to restore the blood circulation

Airway Breathing Circulation


A is for Airway Management. The airway is the first component of the ABCs and is crucial for ensuring that oxygen can flow freely into the lungs and carbon dioxide can be expelled from the body. Proper airway management involves the following steps:

  • Assessing the Airway: In any emergency situation, the first step is to assess the victim's responsiveness. Tap the victim and shout loudly to check for any response. If the victim is unresponsive, proceed with airway management.
  • Opening the Airway: To open the airway, gently tilt the victim's head backward and lift their chin upward. This maneuver helps to ensure that the tongue and other soft tissues do not obstruct the airway.
  • Checking for Breathing: Lean close to the victim's mouth and nose and look, listen, and feel for any signs of breathing. If the victim is not breathing or only gasping, it's essential to initiate rescue breathing immediately.
Airway Breathing Circulation


B in ABC is for breathing assessment. After assessing and opening the airway, the goal is to provide artificial ventilation to deliver oxygen to the victim's lungs. Key steps for addressing breathing are as follows:

  • Rescue Breathing: If the victim is not breathing or only gasping, give two rescue breaths. Ensure a proper seal over the victim's mouth and pinch the victim's nose shut to prevent air from escaping.
  • Proper Technique: Deliver each rescue breath over one second, watching for chest rise as you provide ventilation. If the breaths do not go in, reposition the head and try again.
rescuer doing chest compression


C is for Cicrulation/Compression. Circulation is the most critical component of the ABCs. After ensuring the airway is open and providing rescue breaths, it's time to focus on maintaining blood circulation. Key steps for addressing circulation are as follows:

  • Chest Compressions: If the victim remains unresponsive and is not breathing effectively, start chest compressions. Place the heel of one hand on the center of the victim's chest (lower half of the sternum) and place the other hand on top of the first, interlocking your fingers.
  • Proper Technique: Push hard and fast, aiming for a rate of at least 100-120 compressions per minute. Allow the chest to fully recoil between compressions and use your upper body weight to achieve sufficient depth (at least 2 inches for adults).
  • Compression-to-Breath Ratio: In single-rescuer CPR, use a ratio of 30 compressions to 2 rescue breaths. Compressions should be continuous with minimal interruptions.

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"CAB" in CPR is an alternative approach to the traditional "ABC" sequence that was introduced by the American Heart Association (AHA) to simplify and expedite the initial steps in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The CAB sequence emphasizes the critical importance of chest compressions early in the process, especially for adult victims of sudden cardiac arrest. Here's a breakdown of the CAB approach in CPR:

  1. C - Chest Compressions: In the CAB sequence, after confirming that the victim is unresponsive and not breathing, immediately start chest compressions. This means you begin proper chest compression rhythm for adults before checking for an open airway and delivering rescue breaths.
  2. A - Airway: After starting chest compressions, you should assess and open the victim's airway. Gently tilt the victim's head backward and lift their chin upward to help open the airway. This should be done with minimal interruption to chest compressions.
  3. B - Breathing: In the CAB sequence, rescue breaths are addressed after chest compressions. Provide two rescue breaths after every 30 chest compressions. This maintains the 30:2 compression-to-breath ratio used for single-rescuer CPR in the traditional ABC sequence.

The CAB sequence is primarily recommended for adult cardiac arrest victims in non-hospital settings, especially when bystanders with minimal training are the first responders. This approach recognizes the paramount importance of early, high-quality chest compressions to circulate oxygenated blood to vital organs and the brain.

It's important to note that for infants, children, and victims of drowning or drug overdose, the traditional ABC sequence may still be applicable, emphasizing the importance of delivering rescue breaths earlier in the sequence. The choice between CAB and ABC should be guided by the specific circumstances and the age and condition of the victim. Always seek professional CPR training and follow the guidelines provided by organizations like the American Heart Association or your local resuscitation authority to ensure you are prepared to respond effectively in emergency situations.

CPR and Basic Life Support Training

The CPR training classes are readily available anytime and can be taken from anywhere. There are no limitations for enrolling in CPR classes, including infant cpr classes, making the course open to everyone interested. Whenever life-threatening emergencies occur, waiting for the EMS to arrive might cost you the life of a loved one, especially in case of cardiac arrest.

CPR and Basic Life Support training are available online at an affordable cost and follow the latest guidelines of the American Heart Association. There are various advantages of taking basic cpr certification online over in-person training. If you choose an online BLS and CPR certification course, you can acquire the same level of skills at a fair price at your convenience. While there are free CPR classes available, it's important that you get certified by reputable training center.

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